The I Don’t Get It podcast is one of my go-to podcasts about Edmonton’s local arts community. Produced by Paul Blinov, Fawnda Mithrush, and Andrew Paul, I Don’t Get It is a critical, yet accessible, look at the various types of performance happening in our city that I turn to for an honest, open, and educational discussion about what’s on.
Here are the team’s bios:
Paul Blinov (Twitter: @PaulJBlin) is the former Arts & Film Editor of Vue Weekly. His writing has been published in the National Post, Exclaim!, Beatroute, and more. He currently teaches, tours, and performs improv with Rapid Fire Theatre. He’s also one half of sketch-comedy duo Gossamer Obsessions, who have toured to Toronto, Atlanta, Seattle, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Their new show, Gossamer Obsessions: The Morality Puns, will be at the Edmonton and Vancouver Fringes this year.
Fawnda Mithrush (Twitter: @Fawnda) is Executive Director at LitFest, Canada’s only nonfiction festival. She has played the role of General Manager for Theatre Network and the outdoor Freewill Shakespeare Festival and has penned stories and profiles for Avenue Magazine, Vue Weekly, Dance Current, Edmonton Journal, ACUA Vitae, and others. Moonlighting as producer and co-host of I Don’t Get It, an award-winning podcast that reviews performance in Edmonton, she also consults on administration and nonprofit management. Born and raised in YEG, her favourite pastime is boosting the city’s writers and artsy folk. She may also talk your ear off about art, books, and cheese.
Andrew Paul is a Communications Advisor at Edmonton Community Foundation. He started working at ECF in 2011, where he coordinates the production of ECF’s quarterly magazine Legacy in Action and hosts The Well Endowed Podcast. After graduating from MacEwan University’s Journalism Program in 2008, Andrew took up feature-writing for the now-defunct SEE Magazine. He worked as SEE’s web and features editor and won the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association’s Award for Best News Story in 2010. He has also served as an editorial intern at Avenue Magazine Edmonton and co-founded Gypsy Church, a boutique publicity agency specializing in services for non-profit and arts organizations. In his spare time he also produces the award-winning podcast I Don’t Get It.
And here’s how the I Don’t Get It team Fringes:
How long have you been Fringing? What is your favourite Fringe memory?
Paul: Since 2008! I started with doing reviews for Vue Weekly, then later ran Vue’s festival coverage as the paper’s arts editor. Now I do shows of my own at the Fringe. I think I’ve seen the festival from every angle except volunteer and festival administrator.
Favourite memories: the regularity with which a Fringe night ends with a post-2am trip to Steel Wheels.
It’s almost impossible to Fringe without indulging in the food! What’s your go-to food at Fringe?
Paul: Taco in a Bag. I’m sure I’ve eaten my weight in these over the past decade. Also, this isn’t an “official” fringe food, but Steel Wheels bulgogi pizza. At 2am, there’s simply nothing better.
Andrew: The food at the Fringe is over-priced for what it is. There, I said it.
How do you choose the shows you’re going to see at Fringe? It’s still early, but do you have your eye on any shows you’re interested in seeing this year?
Paul: I try to keep one ear tuned to fringe circuit buzz: I like to check in on reviews coming out of Winnipeg to get an early sense of some of the touring shows. Otherwise: chatting with people! And going through the program and looking for things that sound intriguing to me, regardless of buzz/press/reviews/etc. This massive-as-hell festival always carries always some hidden gems that seem to shine just for you. Seek ’em out!
What advice would you give to a first-time Fringe-er for the best way to enjoy the festival?
Fawnda: Don’t go for the usual suspects—chances are you’ll be able to see them again (and again). Some of the most magical surprises are in shows or acts you’ve never heard of, and may never see again. It’s probably an odd opinion from a writer, but I love shows that resonate for audiences outside of spoken language. Puppetry and clowning are always a pleasure at the Fringe, like The Wonderheads. If you want to get your feet wet, try a show without words. That, and stay hydrated.
Andrew: See a show! You aren’t truly experiencing the Fringe if you don’t see at least one play. If the only thing you do is sit in a beer tent or wander the grounds eating over-priced food, you’re missing out. Don’t be a tourist, be a local!
Tell me about the best show you ever saw at Fringe. Why has it stuck with you?
Fawnda: I don’t recall the title, but I saw an absolutely breathtaking absurdist Japanese opera in either 2000 or ’01, and it remains one of the weirdest, most memorable shows I can remember. I can still hear the soprano screeching. I was a kid just out of theatre school and thought I knew everything about theatre, and that show proved me damn wrong.
Has something you’ve seen or experienced at the Fringe had an impact on your life? How did it change you?
Fawnda: There was a show a few years back that focused on the women of the Beat generation, and in each performance, there was a different solo actor/dancer being fed all the lines through an i-Pod. It was experimental, risky. There were tech hiccups to start. When the actor started on the story of Joan Vollmer, the pace went up to full tilt, very emotionally charged. I was getting worked up, too, because I knew where it was going (Vollmer was William Burroughs‘s wife, who he shot in the head during a drunken game of William Tell). Then someone in the audience fainted. That fourth wall just broke. Between people who were concerned for the audience member and the rest not knowing quite what to do (keep watching the show? Offer help? Check in with the actor? Take a break and start over?), the feeling in that room was electric. And the performer, she kept going. There was no way she would let up on the energy she had built—and she totally had me there with her. I was simultaneously so thrilled that she powered through, and sad that it had happened at the worst possible moment. Mostly, I appreciated the live-ness of it, of the risks they were taking with that show. That performance would ever be replicated. I’m doubtful everyone in the room felt as impacted, but I left that theatre a mess.
What’s the one item you never forget to bring to the Fringe or other summer festivals?
Andrew: I like to bring friends who have never been to the Fringe before and get them inside a theatre or two. I enjoy championing our city’s arts communities and it’s always a treat being part of someone’s first interaction with Edmonton’s theatre scene. Plus, if I end up catching a dud of a show it’s always nice to have someone to commiserate with over a beverage in the beer garden.
Do you remember the first time you Fringed? Who introduced you to the festival? What were your impressions and have they changed at all over the years?
Andrew: The first time I seriously Fringed was in August 2008. I was the staff writer at the now-defunct SEE Magazine. Paul Matwychuk was the arts editor at the time and had assigned me 13 shows to review over opening weekend as part of SEE’s Fringe guide. The guide included reviews of every single show (more than 200 that year). The issue would come out in print on the first Monday of the festival and it was pure insanity rushing from one venue to the next with pit stops in the beer tent to pound out tight 100-word reviews of the shows I’d just seen.
What type of a live performance show have you never seen that you want someone to create (or want to create yourself)?
Andrew: I would like to see a play that tells the story of theatre reviewers working for two rival alt-weekly newspapers during the Edmonton Fringe. Back in the day when SEE Magazine was still around, we would compete against VUE Weekly in our coverage of the Fringe. I think this show would be equal parts funny and poignant about the state of the media and arts in general.
I would definitely watch that show, Andrew! Thanks to the I Don’t Get It team for a fun interview and sharing a depth of knowledge about the Fringe from their many different hats!
You can find the I Don’t Get It podcast on your podcatcher of choice, or at idontgetityeg.com or @idontgetityeg on Twitter. Paul and Fawnda can be found on Twitter at @PaulJBlin and @Fawnda respectively.
The I Don’t Get It podcast profile is part of my 2018 How to Fringe series highlighting some of the folks I look up to in Edmonton who have generously agreed to share a bit about themselves and how they Fringe. If YOU want to Fringe, tickets for the 37th annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival go on sale August 7.